Saturday, July 01, 2017

Chapter 18. Sugar Arrives

Sugar cane was not grown in Anguilla until the second quarter of the eighteenth century.  In this, Anguilla was late taking up the industry.  This was long after sugar replaced tobacco and cotton in the rest of the Leeward Islands in the mid-seventeenth century.  We saw that in the early years of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, cotton and ground provisions were the main cash crops of the island planters.  The leading settlers were all described as cotton planters.  The Governor-in-Chief would appoint the richest and most important planter in Anguilla deputy governor, if he wanted his instructions to be followed.  When George Leonard was deputy governor, he was a cotton planter.  Until he fades from the scene in 1735, he remained a cotton planter.  Leonard was the richest and most influential man in Anguilla at the time of his appointment.  As a cotton planter, he was a poor man in comparison to the sugar planters of the Leeward Islands.  In Anguilla, cotton survived as the main cash crop of choice until well into the eighteenth century.
By the 1730s, the early sugar planters of Anguilla were beginning to challenge the Leonard family in wealth and influence.  The Hodge, Gumbs and Richardson families were to become the leading families of the island.  Their incomes from their Anguillian plantations were supplemented by the profitable trade of their sloops.  They extended their land-holdings into St Martin and St Croix.  Leonard’s last years were troubled by the unwillingness of his wealthier and more unruly subjects to obey his orders.  After his death, his family ceased to have any influence in Anguilla.  His son George Jr worked his plantations in neighbouring St Martin, but the family gradually disappears from the scene.
The long drought in Anguilla seems temporarily to have come to an end about the year 1725.  Weather conditions improved to the extent that the growing of sugar cane became feasible.  The population continued to increase.  There were white servants and African slaves available to be employed in the new industry.  In July 1720, Governor Walter Hamilton sent a list of the population of the Leeward Islands at that time (see illus 1 and table 1).[1]

1. Governor Hamilton’s estimate of the population of the Leeward Islands in 1720. CO.152/13. (UK National Archives)
The original document is torn, but it is possible to reconstruct it in its entirety.  It reads as shown in table 1.

Free Persons

Servants free and un-free



St Kitts

Virgin Gorda


Table 1: List of the Inhabitants of the Leeward Islands, 18 July, 1720: CO.152/13.
This shows that in 1720 the population of Anguilla consisted of 163 white male settlers, of whom 121 were in the militia, 164 white women, 246 white children, and 879 black slaves.  The sugar industry typically required a population of many times more black slaves than of whites.  The more or less evenly balanced numbers of free persons and slaves suggest that sugar was not yet being made in Anguilla.
By 1724, we find the first hint that a small amount of sugar was being grown in the Virgin Islands, with which Anguilla was unofficially classed.  Governor John Hart wrote that the produce of the three islands of Anguilla, Virgin Gorda and Tortola were sugar, molasses and cotton.[2]  These were their cash crops.  The islanders, he wrote, generally disposed of them to the Dutch in St Eustatius or to the Danes at St Thomas, where they also purchased the essentials that they needed.  He commented that these essentials were not of any significance as the inhabitants lived in a very poor condition.
We cannot be sure that sugar cane was growing in Anguilla as early as 1724.  If it was, the long drought ended a year or two earlier, perhaps in 1722.  In any event, the date of 1724 is nearly eighty years after the usual date of 1640 given for the commencement of sugar cane growing in Barbados.  With the production of sugar and rum, came an increase in wealth for a few of the major land owners.  There was the usual increase in the ratio of slaves to free people.  The smaller parcels of potential cane land began to be bought up by the larger planters.  That may be why the population statistics for the year 1724 show that there now were 360 whites and 900 slaves as compared to 548 whites and 879 slaves just four years earlier.  The falling number of free persons compared to slaves is a good indicator of the presence of a sugar industry.  The consolidation of land in the hands of the wealthier planters, and the migration of the landless free persons to other places where they might have a chance to start over is another indicator.
With the increase in wealth for the island's major planters that sugar production signalled, the community was now ready for its first Council.  Governor Hart was in Anguilla in May of 1724 on official business.  He appointed the first Council, but we are not certain who they were.  Whatever little sugar industry there was, was very poor and of limited extent.  He would not have found many planters that he would consider suitable to be appointed members of a Council.
During his 1724 visit to Anguilla Governor Hart issued patents to land.  He gave John Bryan and Daniel Bryan their patent to four parcels of land.[3]  The description of the parcels reads:
The one bounded southward with the lands of Thomas Floyd and William Farrington running east, from thence to the land of John Richardson Senior, bounded with the land now in possession of Ann Williams, bound with the great Spring, running east to the path known by the name of Shoal Bay path, running along the said path bounded with Thomas Lake [ . . . ]avana.
Also, one other parcel of land bounded on the west with the land of John Lake, southwardly with Edward and Thomas Lake, north with a ledge of rocks.
Also, a piece or parcel of land in The Valley bounded northwardly and eastwardly with Abraham Howell, southwardly with [ . . . ] Connor and Paul Rohan, westwardly with Governor George Leonard.
Also, one other parcel of land in the Stony Ground bound on the north with John Connor, eastward with the land of [ . . . ] Harrigan, southward with the land of William [ . . . ] running to the westward a half mile.
The first parcel was described as bound on the south with the lands of Thomas Floyd and William Farrington, on the east with the land of Ann Williams and the Great Spring, and also bound with the Shoal Bay Path and Thomas Lake.  Perhaps ‘the Great Spring’ was an early name for what we now know as the Fountain Cavern.  This first parcel was a very large plantation by Anguilla standards.  It stretches from the Farrington in the south to the Brimegin and Shoal Bay Plantations in the north.  This was most of the area known as Stoney Ground area, and was known as the Stoney Ground Estate or Plantation.
The boundaries of the second parcel were not any more clearly described.  No doubt it was clear at the time what was meant by “bound on the west with the land of John Lake, south with Edward Lake and Thomas Lake, and north with a ledge of rocks.  Today, we have no idea where these boundaries were.
The third parcel of land was situated in the Valley.  The fact that Abraham Howell lay on the north and east of it suggests that it was a plantation lying to the west and south of Wallblake Plantation, ie, that it was the Statia Valley Plantation.  That would suggest that George Leonard’s plantation was the George Hill Plantation.
The fourth parcel was in Stoney Ground.  Its boundaries are unclear but it was a substantial plantation by Anguillian standards, with its southern boundary being half a mile long.
From an endorsement at the foot of this patent we see John Bryan the following year transferring his half interest in the above lands to his brother, Daniel Bryan, who was left as the sole owner.  Was this development, perhaps, a sign of the conglomerating of estates that took place as sugar began to replace cotton?  Perhaps John was joining the stream of Quaker settlers moving on the Virgin Islands, or perhaps as we shall see he joined the Anguillian settlement on St Croix.  He was shedding interests in land in Anguilla that he no longer wanted.  He disappears, and nothing more in heard of him in the archives.
Some forty years later, one John Bryan of St Croix was sued by John Hancock, a carpenter of Anguilla, for a debt.  We learn from the record of the trial that as a result of another suit, his land at Little Harbour was sold to Edward Payne.  We cannot be sure this the same John Bryan.  Daniel Bryan, as seen in various earlier patents and conveyances, owned land at the end of the seventeenth century in the Valley Division and in Stoney Ground.  In Thomas Lake’s 1717 conveyance he was described as possessing the land of Mrs Ann Hackett at Stoney Ground.[4]  The likelihood is that John Bryan emigrated with the Anguillians who were settling St Croix, and that his family became Danish subjects.  They did not give up their Anguillian connections.  With their sloops and family contacts intact, they continued to own property on both islands and to travel from one island to the other for years to come.
The Anguillian planters chose an inauspicious time to move into sugar production.  The price of rum and sugar during the 1730's was depressed on the London market.  The lowest prices were reached in 1733.[5]  By that date, sugar cane was grown on Anguilla.  We do not know when and to what extent locally made sugar and rum began to be exported.  In 1734, Governor Mathew reported that the Virgins, including Anguilla, produced no sugar for export.[6]  Their chief products then, he wrote, were cotton and ground provisions, ie, corn, pigeon peas and sweet potatoes.  Five years later, in 1739, deputy governor John Richardson made his will.  Among many bequests, he left as we shall see below his “mill, stills, boiling house and still house” to his wife Joan Richardson for her life and after her death to his son, William Richardson, and grandsons John Richardson and William Richardson for so long as they planted cane to make rum and sugar.
When deputy governor John Richardson refers in his will to his mill, he is not referring to a windmill.  There is no windmill on this estate.  His canes were crushed in an animal round.  This consisted of two iron mills one of which was turned by animal power against the other, the sugar canes being inserted by hand between the two of them.  In a typical animal round, donkeys, mules or other cattle were yoked to a long axle attached to one of the mills.  They were made to walk round and round, turning the mill to crush the canes which were pushed by hand between the mills as they turned.  Animal rounds were common in the Leeward Islands in the early period of sugar manufacture.  The more efficient windmill was soon introduced into the richer islands of Antigua, Nevis and St Kitts.  In Anguilla few windmill ruins, if any, can be seen.  The vast majority of the mills in Anguilla were animal rounds (see illus 2).
2. A French animal round as depicted by Charles de Rochefort.
By tying this condition to his gift, deputy governor John Richardson was trying to ensure posthumously that his heirs would be obliged to keep up the struggle to grow sugar cane.   His will reads in part:
Item.   I give and devise unto my lawful and now married wife Joan Richardson all my estate both real and personal during her life or widowhood freely to be possessed and enjoyed by her my said wife, and at her decease or end of widowhood, to be divided in manner and form as follows.
Item.   I give and devise unto my two grandsons John and William Richardson the sons of my son John Richardson of the island of St Martins deceased a certain part of my plantation in the said Island being bounded on the north side with a parcel of land formerly known by the name of Arrowsmiths next adjoining the Church in Spring Division of said Island running along said highway to a tamarind tree now standing to the westward and adjacent to my now dwelling house, from thence running along said highway to the old breastwork near the south end of my fence, and from said breastwork running to a cliff of rocks on the north end of Long Pond Bay, and is bounded on the south side with the sea, and from said land of Arrowsmiths running the same course of said land of Arrowsmiths to a pond known by the name of Calls pond, and is bounded westwardly with the neighbouring plantations;
and also a parcel of land I now have in Stony Valley, and is bounded on the north side with the lands of William Farrington Sr deceased
and also the one moiety or half of the land that I lately purchased of Joseph Burnett;
which three parcels of land to be and remain to them my said grandsons, and the lawful begotten male heirs of their bodies, the elder being preferred before the younger and for want of such male heirs said land shall descend to my son William Richardson and the lawful begotten male heirs on the part of my said son William Richardson [and for want of such male heirs] it shall go to the female heirs of my said grandsons John and William Richardson, and for want of such female heirs it shall go to the next surviving heirs of blood and to their heirs forever, equally to be divided betwixt them.  They shall not sell, or make away with any of said lands or Plantations except it be to my son William Richardson or to his lawful begotten heirs or line of blood.
Item.  It is my Will that my mill, stills, boiling house and still house with all the necessaries and utensils thereto belonging shall be and remain where they are now are for the joint benefit of my said son and grandsons and their heirs as above said as long as they plant canes to make rum and sugar, and when they cease from such planting canes and making rum and sugar as above said they shall be sold, excepting the boiling house and still house, and the price thereof equally to be divided between my children and grand children, remembering that the children of my deceased daughter Mary Wingood and the child of my deceased daughter Elizabeth King shall have the one fifth part thereof divided between the child of my deceased daughter Elizabeth King, to have the one half, and the children of my deceased daughter Mary Wingood shall have the other half to be divided betwixt them, and the children of my deceased son John Richardson shall have the one fifth part divided betwixt them.
Item.  I give and devise unto my son William Richardson all the rest of my lands in said Island together with my now dwelling house and other houses on said land except what is heretofore willed and devised or bequeathed and other appurtenances and privileges thereto belonging or there from arriving, to him my said son and the lawful begotten male heirs of body and in their lawful begotten male heirs of his body and their line or lineage being males, and, for want of such male heirs it shall go to the male heirs of the part of my said grandsons John and William Richardson, and for want of such heirs it shall go to ye lawful begotten female heirs on the part of my son William Richardson, and for want of such female heirs, it shall go to the next surviving heirs of blood and to their heirs forever, equally to be divided betwixt them.   He my said son shall not sell nor make away with any of my said lands or plantations except it be to my said grandsons or either of them, or to either of their lawful begotten heirs or line of blood.
Item.   I will that my son William Richardson shall be at half cost and trouble to build each of my said grandsons a house of thirty-two feet long with height and breadth proportionable, both to be boarded and shingled, on their parts of said plantation when and where they shall think proper. 
Item.   It is also my will that if I recover the interest in Antigua or any part thereof which belonged to my deceased father John Richardson Sr of said island of Antigua or any other that my said grandsons shall have one moiety and my son William shall have the other freely to be held and enjoyed by them in such manner as in every particular prescribed touching my estate in this Island.
We learn a number of things from this will about Anguilla in the 1730’s.  For one thing, by 1739 the island was sufficiently developed to have more than one Anglican church.  Not only was there the Anglican Church at The Valley, but now also a second one in the East End of the island.  Richardson referred to it in the second paragraph above only in passing, in describing the location of one of his devises.  The land in question, he writes, is “adjoining the Church in Spring Division.”  The site of this church was probably where the St Augustine’s Anglican Church stands at East End at present.  The present Church is built to the south of his sugar works.  Their remains, the animal round, boiling house, and curing house, can be seen to this day part hidden in the scrub just a hundred feet north of the church buildings.
We see how far flung his family was.  His father John Richardson Sr owned a plantation in Antigua.  The Richardson family was in Anguilla from the earliest days of settlement.  The likelihood is that his father acquired an interest in a plantation in Antigua at about the same time as his contemporary, deputy governor George Leonard, did.  His deceased son, John Richardson Jr, lived and died in St Martin, long becoming French.  We saw that his grandchildren, John and William, joined the Danish settlement in St Croix.  Only William was left in Anguilla.
The Gumbs family also tried to improve their lot by trying to grow sugar cane.  For the few deceptive years that it rained more than usual in Anguilla, they managed as best they could, but not with any great success.  William Gumbs Sr was a member of John Richardson’s Council. By the year 1738 his name begins to be mentioned as a member of the Council.  He was probably one of the wealthiest men on the island at the time.  He died a grandfather in 1749, leaving several plantations to his children in his will of the same year.[7]  It reads in part:
Imprimis.  I give and bequeath to my dear beloved wife Elizabeth Gumbs all my estate both real and personal during her life or widowhood.
Item.   I give and bequeath to William Gumbs my eldest son all my dwelling houses, out houses and store houses situated upon my place of residence with my coppers and mill willing that whatsoever products of cane are reaped from my other lands shall not be debarred of the privilege of being made of by the said coppers or mill if by those to whom underwritten it is willed shall be desired.  Computing value the said building to six hundred pounds currency of the island, willing when once an equal dividend is made of all the rest of my personal estate here to the rest of my children, then he the said William Gumbs shall come in coequal in what is over and above the said dividend.
Item.   I give and bequeath unto Thomas Gumbs my fourth son a piece of land commonly known by the name of Hazard Hill in this island purchased of one John Lloyd and that the said Thomas Gumbs must be made equal with every child.
Item.   I give and bequeath unto Benjamin Gumbs my fifth son a certain piece of land commonly known by the name of Hazard Hill in this island purchased of one Thomas Lake and that the said Benjamin Gumbs must be made equal with every child.
Item.   I give and bequeath unto my fourth daughter Joanna Jones and Catherine Gumbs my youngest daughter the lands and houses at Crocus Bay and a piece of land known by the name of the Great Cockpit also a piece of land purchased of one Thomas Skerret in this island and that the said Joanna Jones and Catherine Gumbs shall be made equal with every child.
Item.   I give and bequeath unto my second daughter Mary Barton a piece of land in the island of St.  Martins in the Dutch Quarter adjoining Mr Aaron Westerband and my lot on the bay and that the said Mary Barton shall be made equal with every child.
Item.   As to what little Negroes I gave away is not to come in when a day of division or dividend shall be made.
Item.   I give and bequeath unto my son Jacob Gumbs my land in the Dutch part of St Martins which he now lives on but the Negroes, mill, coppers, still to be valued and the said Jacob Gumbs shall be made equal with every child.
From these devises it is clear that William Gumbs was a substantial planter by Anguillian standards.  He owned sugar estates not only in Anguilla, but in Dutch St Maarten as well.  We first saw him in the Archives when he was mentioned in the 1739 conveyance of Thomas Hughes as owning land at Crocus Bay.  In the year he made the will, he was.  He died the same year, 1749, leaving a large family behind.  He bequeathed to his widow Elizabeth Gumbs, as we saw above, all his estate during her life or widowhood.  He left his first son William Gumbs all his Anguillian dwelling houses, outhouses and storerooms, with his coppers and mill.[8]  He left his fourth son Thomas Gumbs, John Lloyd's Hazard Hill.  To his fifth son Jacob Gumbs, he left his sugar estate in Dutch St Maarten, and an equal share with his other children in the slaves, mill, coppers and still.  Jacob already owned his own sugar works and estate in St Martin.  To his daughters, Johanna Jones and Catherine Gumbs, he left his lands and houses at Crocus Bay, at Great Cockpit, and other land.  To his daughter Mary Barton, he left other lands in St Maarten.  What we do not know with any certainty is the location of his sugar plantations in Anguilla.
William Gumbs Sr was a member of Governor Arthur Hodge's 1741 Council.  He was too elderly to play an important role in the fighting in 1744 and 1745.  He was one of those Anguillians who sent Governor Hodge to England to plead the cause of retaining St Martin as a British possession and an Anguillian dependency during the peace negotiations.  As a sugar planter and land owner in both the British and Dutch territories, he was put to much inconvenience when travelling.  He was suspect by the Leeward Islands British administrators of harbouring Dutch sympathies.  They considered him to have turned Dutch.  The Dutch in turn suspected, probably with justification, that he retained British sympathies.  He received little assistance from either of them when administrative problems arose.
The litigation that caused William Gumbs’ 1749 will to be preserved in the Anguilla Archives was due to his estate not being properly administered after his death.  The will became the subject of law suits in the 1750s and 1760s.  When his personal estate was eventually appraised in 1754, it included the buildings and equipment set out in table 2.

£   s
1 copper and 2 furnaces
40 00
2 skimmers and 1 ladle old
1 10
Boiling House and 3 coolers
50 00
1 still worm and kitchen and worm tub
95 00
Mill Oct
80 00
1 old mare
10 00
1 house
10 00
a white faced horse
20 00
1 mare
14 00
1 mare and foal
16 10
a house
100 00
Tower Hill
[ . . . ]
Old Harry        

50 00
30 00
42 00
15 00
33 00
24 00
34 00
100 00
45 00
70 00
46 00
65 00
60 00
30 00
65 00
Negro boys

50 00
45 00
41 00
34 00
34 00
33 00
33 00
25 00
20 00
15 00
15 00
Liddey & child

15 00
40 00
40 00
45 00
10 00
35 00
60 00
40 00
40 00
42 00
25 00
12 00
12 00
10 00
25 00
Table 2: The 1754 Valuation of William Gumbs’ Estate (Anguilla Archives).
From this assessment, it would appear that, other than his house, the most valuable equipment on his sugar estate was his distillery.  That tells us that William Gumbs’ probably grew sugar canes principally to distil rum.  His boiling house contained only one copper, and two furnaces.  If he was producing rum and not sugar he would not have needed the several coppers that were to be found on the major sugar-producing factories in other islands.  He would convert the sugar cane juice to molasses by boiling, and then fermenting and distilling it to produce alcohol.
By far the major part of William Gumbs’ estate lay in his slaves.  The appraisers listed their names and their values.  There were sixteen male slaves valued at £789.50.  There were eleven boys worth £345.00.  There were fifteen women and children valued at £451.00.  The total estate amounted to £2,022.00 current money.  Of this sum, the land, sugar mills, houses, stills and animals, were appraised as being worth £437.00.  The balance of his estate consisted of his slaves.  Of the sixteen male slaves, the names of two were missing.  Of the remaining fourteen, only one bore an African name:  Cudjoe.  He was an old man as he was only valued at £24.00.  The likelihood is that he came from Africa and was not born in the West Indies.  Others of the men bore European place names such as Tower Hill, Bristol and France.  Yet others carried classical names such as Scipio and Cato.  Some bore English nicknames such as Tony and Jim.  The estimated value of each varied from a low of £15.00 for Fortune to a high of £100.00 for Adam.  Among the eleven boys were two African names:  Quacky and Fontu, and one European place name:  Cambridge.  There were four biblical names:  Adam, Mathew, Peter and Abraham.  There was a variety of other soubriquets such as Amboy and Trouble.  Among the fifteen women, there were three African names: Mimboe, Moroter and Cubboe.  There were four traditional European first names such as Sarah and Henrietta.  There was a variety of nicknames such as Bess, Nan and Moll.  In this alone they were distinguished from the horses, which were not named.  Their value far exceeded that of house and factory, which were very poor structures.
William Gumbs' son, Thomas Gumbs Sr, died a few years later, in 1754.  He was a prominent planter and a member of both Arthur Hodge's Council of 1741 and of his brother Benjamin Gumbs' Council of 1750.  He inherited John Lloyd’s Hazard Hill Plantation from his father.  By the time he died, he owned other estates, including Kidneys Plantation and Diggeries Plantation, the locations of which are now uncertain.  In his 1753 will, he divided up his estates among his six living children.  He was able to leave his daughter Margaret a feather bed and furniture.  He did not mention any other personal possessions.  He did not state whether his estates grew cotton or sugar cane.[9]  From the period we are dealing with, it is safe to assume that he grew cane, but it was not very profitable enterprise.
Thomas Gumbs’ son, Thomas Gumbs Jr, served on Benjamin Gumbs’ Council of 1750-1768.  He made his last will in 1769.  He died some time before 1774, the year his will was probated.[10]  He was a major planter, owning several estates.  These included Richard’s Land (Little Dix), John Ruan’s Land, the Long Ground, and North Side Plantations.  Whatever the produce of his plantations, it did not include any great quantity of sugar cane.  He did not claim in his will to own a sugar mill or rum still.
Throughout the years when sugar cane was grown in Anguilla, roughly 1725-1780, it was never a successful crop, unlike in the main sugar islands.  Sugar cane never occupied all the agricultural land.  It was grown on the estates only of the wealthiest and most successful planters.  They grew it only on their best agricultural land.  Given the largely rocky surface of Anguilla, this was only a small part of their lands.  The sugar industry did not last long.  Before the end of the American Revolutionary War, all trace of it disappears from the Anguilla records.
Small quantities of sugar cane continued to be grown in Anguilla into the nineteenth century.  During periods of good weather, when sufficient quantities survived to make it worthwhile, it was cut and shipped the ninety miles to the factories of St Kitts to be ground up.  This was uneconomic.  The practice did not persist for more than a few years.
In the Archives, it is not unusual to come across a planter with large areas of land, none of which appears to be given over to sugar cane.  When in 1739, Elizabeth Rogers purchased a half of Crocus Bay Plantation from Samuel Downing of Tortola for £172.00, there is no indication that it was under sugar cane.[11]  She sold it a few years later to Joseph Burnett, together with a part of the adjoining Roaches Hill Plantation, for £183 3s 4d.  It was still not under sugar cane.  Crocus Bay Plantation was more likely devoted to small stock and food crops rather than to sugar cane.  There is no trace of a sugar round or boiling house in Crocus Bay.  Most of the land in Anguilla over the centuries and up to the twentieth century was dedicated to small stock rearing with small patches of subsistence farming in the shallow bottoms.
[Continued in Part 2]

[1]       CO.152/13, folio 159: List of the Inhabitants of the Leeward Islands taken on 18 July 1720.
[2]       CO.152/14, folio 325: Hart to the Council on 10 July 1724.  It is not clear from the report whether each of the three islands was producing each of the three products.  That is one possible interpretation.  It is equally possible that he lumped the produce together, and that only one of them, eg, Tortola, actually produced any sugar and molasses.
[3]       Anguilla Archives: John and Daniel Bryan’s 1724 patent.
[4]       Anguilla Archives: Thomas Lake’s 1717 conveyance.
[5]       Frank Wesley Pitman, The Development of the British West Indies (1917) p.92.
[6]       CO.152/20: Mathew to the Committee.
[7]       Anguilla Archives: William Gumbs’ 1749 Will.
[8]       We later find William Gumbs Jr serving on Benjamin Gumbs’ 1750 Council.
[9]       Anguilla Archives: Thomas Gumbs’ 1753 Will.
[10]     Anguilla Archives: Thomas Gumbs Jr’s 1769 Will.
[11]     Anguilla Archives: Elizabeth Rogers’ 1739 deed.